Art Institute of Chicago: After Dark

Chicago has many great museums to check out any time of the day, but if you want to really enjoy the museums and take in some great food, music, and people watching while you are there, then you should check out the various after hours events happening all over Chicago. A few weeks ago, I attended an After Dark event at the Art Institute of Chicago. Being that I am a big fan of the museum and my best friend happens to be on the Young Associates Board at the Art Institute, I often take part in many of the activities this museum has to offer. This specific After Dark event though was my favorite so far, because it featured in exhibit on Studio Gang Architects. I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with Jeanne Gang on some past projects at my previous job, and I was ecstatic to hear the museum was featuring an exhibit on her. I was even more excited when I saw a model of one of the projects I worked on with her in the museum! (Did I mention my old company also designed the Modern Wing at the Art Institute?) Enough about me. Jeanne is a successful female architect and graduated from my alma mater, so as you can imagine, I’ve looked up to her throughout my education and career. For those of you who are unfamiliar with her work and want to see some really cool modern architecture, drive down Lake Shore Drive and take a look at one of her most famous pieces of work, Aqua.

Each After Dark event features a different exhibit and gives you access in to the museum after hours with special tours of their featured exhibit. So, even though you may have missed the Studio Gang After Dark event, check out the next one. General admission is typically $25, and that includes complimentary appetizers, live music, admission in to the museum, and cash bar. There is typically a decent amount of food that is delicious, so don’t come too full like we did. They often have live performance art that brings a nice element of surprise throughout your night. You never know what fun things they will do! Wondering what to wear there? Well, let’s just say, anything goes. It’s an art museum. People typically get pretty dressed up (sport coat, but no tuxedos) and often use this as an opportunity to really express their own style. I wore a sweater dress and boots since I knew I’d be standing a lot, but I tried to get creative by wearing zig zag patterned tights and jewelry by my favorite Chicago designer.

Want to check out a similar event at a different museum? Check out the First Fridays events at the MCA. Tickets range between $10-$18 depending on when you buy and/or if you are a member, but it has a similar set up as the After Dark Event at the Art Institute. You’ll find all types of people at both events, so it’s great for mingling or people watching.


Models of Studio Gang Architect’s Projects in the Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago


Performance Art at the After Dark Event at the Art Institute of Chicago


Sweater Dress: Laundry by Shelli Segal on Zappos (old, but can now find on ebay); Boots: Steve Madden (old); Belt: Mint Julep Boutique on Southport; Earrings and Necklace: K-Amato Sample Sale (recent); Zig Zag Tights

Dress Code: Smart Casual / Business Casual


Salvage One & Chef Battle Royale

When it comes to cool and unique event spaces, Salvage One tops my list. If you haven’t heard of this place, it’s a 60,000 square foot store on four floors that is filled with tons of architectural elements that are unique and one of a kind. Don’t believe me? Check out this ceramic sculpture of a Thwomp from Super Mario Brothers that we happened to come across there for a couple hundred dollars. (Don’t worry, there is also every kind of door knob, lighting fixture, and chair you can imagine there as well.)


Ceramic statue of a Thwomp from Super Mario Brothers at Salvage One

Not only can you buy custom and unique furniture here, but you can also rent out the space for events. I was lucky enough to attend WBEZ‘s Chef Battle Royale back in October, which not only takes place in one of the coolest spaces in Chicago, but is also one of the best foodie and budget friendly events I have attended. For $15 a person (or $10 if you are a student) you get to taste foods from five different chefs representing five different ethnicities from five different neighborhoods. At the end of the night you get to vote and help choose which neighborhood and food is the best. If that still doesn’t sway you to take part in this event next year, there is also unlimited free beer from Goose Island. Keep your eye out for this popular budget friendly event next time it rolls around, and be sure not to miss it!

Whether you attend an event like Chef Battle Royale or are lucky enough to be invited to a wedding at Salavage One, be sure to head over to West Town and check this space out.

Dress Code: This varies depending on the event, but most people at Chef Battle Royale were dressed in Business Casual attire. Most women wore dresses and boots like I did below.


Dress: Everly, last year (Mint Julep); Belt: The Red Dress Boutique; Boots: Asma by Shoedazzle, no longer available (similiar without the wedge); Watch: Michael Kors; Bracelet: Forever 21 (store only); Earrings: Vintage; Necklace: Sample Sale in NYC; Handbag: Guess, old; Gray Tights: Old Navy, old